African American Communities and Mental Health
Mental Health America works nationally and locally to raise awareness about mental health. We believe that everyone at risk for mental illnesses and related disorders should receive early and effective interventions. Historically, communities of color experience unique and considerable challenges in accessing mental health services.
- 13.2% of the U.S. population, or roughly 42 million people, identify themselves as African American, according to 2013 US Census Bureau numbers. (1) Another 1 percent identified as multiracial. This represents an increase from 12 percent of the U.S. population, or roughly 34 million people, who identified themselves as African American in the 2000 Census. (2) In 2007, roughly 3 million of all blacks in the U.S. were foreign born. (3)
- As of 2010, Fifty-five percent of all blacks lived in the South, 18 percent lived in the Midwest, 17 percent in the Northeast, and 10 percent in the West. (4)
- Historical adversity, which includes slavery, sharecropping and race-based exclusion from health, educational, social and economic resources, translates into socioeconomic disparities experienced by African Americans today. Socioeconomic status, in turn, is linked to mental health: People who are impoverished, homeless, incarcerated or have substance abuse problems are at higher risk for poor mental health.
- Notwithstanding the 2008 election of our first African American President, racism continues to have an impact on the mental health of African Americans. Negative stereotypes and attitudes of rejection have decreased, but continue to occur with measurable, adverse consequences. Historical and contemporary instances of negative treatment have led to a mistrust of authorities, many of whom are not seen as having the best interests of African Americans in mind.